by: Paige Kelton Updated:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Michelle DeMello's story is like many Americans. She worked her entire life, but a health problem left her unable to pay her mortgage. After negotiating a short sale with Wells Fargo, Demello said the bank foreclosed on her house anyway. It's called dual tracking, and it's illegal.
DeMello was left without a home and the word "foreclosure" was stamped on her credit report across all three credit agencies.
"It destroyed my credit. I was devastated," she said.
DeMello sent dozens of documents to the credit bureaus disputing the foreclosure, but according to her attorney Dennis Card, Jr., none of her letters were being read.
"What was transmitted out of all the letters you saw was ‘Code 112, says not hers,' that’s all that was transmitted," he said.
Secret codes, passed between banks and credit agencies, hidden numbers that decide how much interest you pay for your credit card, mortgage or car loan.
"Those credit scores you buy from Experian, Equifax and Transunion aren't really your credit score, They’re known in the industry as ‘education credit scores’ and are an approximation of what your credit score is. It's not what a lender sees.” said Card.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports. Out of the 200 million credit bureau files, one out of 10 has an error that might lower a credit score. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi tells Action News her office has received 20 complaints this year, and it's currently investigating all three credit reporting agencies.
"Most folks are unaware that they can fight these things, “ said Harold Riley with Jacksonville Housing and Credit Counseling.
After more than four years of battles, DeMello filed a federal lawsuit to force the credit agencies to remove the foreclosure from her file. She wants her story to help other Floridians who feel they're being held hostage by their credit score.
"It’s not the end of the world. It may feel like it is. I’ve cried many tears, but you can fight this,” DeMello says.
DeMello's attorney will only get paid if she wins her suit. There are a number of resources available to help consumers:
-Good Credit Advocates
-Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information
-Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
-Jacksonville Housing & Credit Counseling Services Inc.
-Annual Credit Report